Google’s Matt Cutts: No Reason To Fret Over “strong” & “b” Tags

matt cuttsToday’s video from Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts is a 2006 throwback where Matt reassures us that there is no difference between using <strong> or <b> tags when it comes to SEO best practices.

The full question asks:

In terms of SEO, what is the difference between <strong> tag and <b> tag for emphasis on certain words of text. From the user perspective, both tags have the same effect (words in bold). Which tags should we use in which circumstances?

Cutts recalled answering this question in 2006, saying there was no difference in how Google treats the <strong> tag and the <b> tag when it came to ranking, scoring or other search factors. He added the same is true for or the <em> and <i> tags when using italics.

“Things might have changed since 2006, but I really kind of doubt it,” says Cutts, offering a not completely definitive answer on the topic.

To clarify the difference between the two tags, Cutts explains the <strong> tag is technically talking about presentation. The <b> tag is a semantic label, but, he says, “In practice, every browser just goes ahead and makes it bold.”

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Top News


About The Author: is Third Door Media's General Assignment Correspondent, and reports on the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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  • Dennis Jaconi

    Mr.Cutts fails to offer a definitive answer!? Surprise, surprise.

  • Durant Imboden

    Sounds reasonable. We’ve come a long way from the era of hand-coded HTML, and most users of authoring software or content-management systems probably haven’t the faintest idea about how their bold and italic text is coded.

  • Tim Fisher

    What about H3 vs b/strong? Has Matt (or anyone else) ever commented on that before?

  • Alan

    I was among the few who used both elements to write.

  • Alan

    I was among the few who used both elements to write.

  • Jacques Bouchard

    Why are people still thinking about this? Does Bold/Strong really have any SEO value at all? I haven’t focused on that in years.

  • L. van Eembergen

    Maybe with the new Hummingbird algorithm it is a cue from Matt Cutts that with semantic search it does start to become more important. And from a usability point of view or helps them to scan easily.

  • Anna Cheung

    The question is we seldom use either “b” or “strong”, but “font-weight: bold” in CSS. I think as long as it makes no difference to the user experience, it should be the same for SEO, too.

  • Calum I Mac Leod

    “Cutts explains the tag is technically talking about presentation”. No I think that Matt Cutts does not make that mistake in the video.

  • Calum I Mac Leod

    Personally I have never liked the use of semantic markup for SEO purposes; for example the treatment of and are not guaranteed to be the same across browsers. Some speech browsers have been known to emphasise and but not and , which makes a lot of sense. I’m glad that Google have tended not to give any boost for content inside these elements, therefore not enticing clued-up SEOs to abuse the semantics.

  • datasmog

    Probably people trying to create W3C validated sites. In practice, given the numbers of high ranking sites badly coded by cheap and cheerful online site creation tools, it probably doesn’t make one iota of difference.

  • Jem

    “Cutts explains the <strong> tag is technically talking about presentation. The <b> tag is a semantic label,”

    Wrong way around. strong is semantic – it’s correct to use it to give strong emphasis to something. b is purely presentational. The difference is important for accessibility, not SEO.

  • Bruce Clay India

    Before in the yahoo’s age, we put “strong” for Google Bot and “b” tag for slurp. Isn’t it?

  • Karthik kumar

    It’s kinda disturbing to see how obsessed we still are with asking this kind of questions. Doesn’t it really make us too insecure about trivial things? Now, I know the space we have to give for the beginners, but if Matt cares to pick it out of all the questions he might be receiving, it’s a sample.

    We know that most of SEO is about common sense. Ironically, instead of realizing it’s the search engines trying hard to think like humans, we humans are adamant at thinking like the search engines.

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